Maybe it’s the way my palms get clammy when she comes around and I have nothing to say. Or maybe it’s the sound of her laugh; it makes me want to feed her pilau with my fingers. I know distress when I see her and she carries a yellow pencil behind her ear. So, I pretend I do not notice when she sits next to me in the darkroom, something red sharply developing. I do not move away when she leads my hand up her skirt. I close my eyes and my ears and my mouth and my skin. No matter what happens, no matter how soft, I vow to figure out why ‘maybe’.
I don’t. I never do. Fifteen years later, as I am rushing across a street, this memory assails me the way a cyclist would. My mind falls embarrassingly, thoughts flailing. I have nowhere to support myself so I land smack in my indecision to tell a woman that I loved her. It doesn’t matter. Now, I am the lady that lives in the shoe. My days are dark and my nights darker. I am the tunnel at the end of the light.
When she calls, it is vivid; I am smoking a joint outside. The neighborhood below is swimming in the smell of kerosene-stove emissions, frying fish and exhaust fumes. I answer and stutter at the sound of her voice, still deeply quiet and laced with ‘maybe’. She had run into a mutual friend who happened to be in touch with a stranger I once knew. She got out two weeks ago and has ran out of places to crash. I am an adult now so I say ‘sure, find me maybe’ and give her directions to mine.
She shows up broken in ways I cannot mend. To take our minds off our invisible gashes, we bathe each other and her color slowly returns. Days later, she has not moved from the couch. It has begun to learn her shape. I watch her over the brim of a steaming mug of coffee. So deep is her sleep, I envy her, and then I panic a little and confirm that she is breathing. She suddenly comes around and we wrestle on the linoleum floor for what seems like hours. It is a dream and in it, I am her nightmare.
We make a bunker under the dining table, holding each other, listening to the dawn come in. She saves me, right at that moment I am rescued. I watch her disappear into the rays of light ushered in by cracks in the walls. They are defibrillating me and the noises around are deafening. I know I will never see her again so I finally breathe in freedom and exhale my simple truth. ‘Maybe’ was never maybe. It has always and will always be ‘heck yeah’.
Macushla is a voyeur of both the beautiful and the grotesque. She blogs at mycolorsmyshadows.wordpress.com